Heartburn is really a symptom of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). The reason behind this symptom is the acid when it backflows into the esophagus. There are a number of risks in such condition, like increasing acid production in the stomach along with structural problems allowing the acid to move upward into the esophagus. There is hardly anyone who has not experience heartburn even once. It is a common problem for many people. Heartburn, also known as acid indigestion, has a burning sensation in the upper central abdomen or the central chest. The discomfort often rises in the chest, then spread throughout the neck, throat or even the jaws.
Nearly everyone suffers from heartburn sometimes at some stage in their lives. Heartburn can be a very uncomfortable burning feeling in your chest and throat and it can be also painful sometimes. If it doesn’t happen often, it is more of a nuisance than a serious medical problem. If this happens more than twice a week, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This occurs when the muscles at the base of the esophagus (this carries food to the stomach) open at the wrong times. This allows stomach acids to move upward into the esophagus, which causes the burning feeling. According to research, It’s usually easy to control heartburn with simple measures, such as avoidance of certain foods, and medication.
Symptoms to look out for
The symptoms of heartburn are obvious and consistent among most of the sufferers. The most common feeling is having the warmth or heat, sometimes having a burning sensation in the chest and throat. The stomach acid is the main reason behind the pain. The symptoms may begin at any time. Sometimes the discomfort begins while eating a meal and sometimes half an hour later after eating. What triggers this condition is usually eating. Some people sometimes take heartburn as having a heart attack.
Other symptoms include a foul acid taste in the mouth, a burning sensation in the middle of the chest, pain possibly reaching the jaw, and also a burning and indigestion-like pain.
What are the causes of heartburn?
There are numerous ways in which a heartburn can occur. The understanding of the common causes will help you make changes and tweaks to your everyday lifestyle and diet and that is also a part of the treatment for GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Some of the mechanisms that are able to contribute to heartburn include direct esophagus irritation, motility disorders of the digestive tract, and weakness of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) etc. that may result in a delay in gastric emptying. In most cases, more than one of the factors play a role in heartburn.
Lifestyle habits can be a great impact to worsen or relieve your symptoms. Heartburn is a medical condition caused by biological causes. Here are some of them.
Esophageal irritation: The esophagus is a muscular tube about 10 inches long that extends from the pharynx (throat) to the stomach. Involuntary muscle contractions called peristalsis causes nutrients to move down the esophagus into the stomach. There are different types of stimulants that can directly irritate the esophagus, like food, smoking, drinks, and even medications. If you take any medication of such type, you should remain upright for about 20-30 minutes after you take it with a full glass of water.
LES (lower esophageal sphincter) dysfunction: The lower esophageal sphincter is very important. If it weakens or loses its tone, it will not be completely closed after the food completes passing into the stomach. Thus, the acid from the stomach is easily able to back up into the esophagus. There can be certain foods, drugs, alcohol, and nervous system factors that may contribute to the weakening of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and impair its function.
Pressure on the abdomen: Excessive abdomen pressure will also put pressure on LES, allowing the acid of the stomach to enter the esophagus, even the mouth is involved. Overweight people and pregnant women are especially prone to such condition.
Motility disorders: In the normal food digestion process, the food moves through the digestive tract, with rhythmic contracts known as peristalsis. When someone is suffering from digestive motility disorder, such contractions may become abnormal. Such abnormality may be because of two reasons, such as the muscle itself is having a problem or problem with the nerves or hormones that control the muscle’s contractions. More than 50% of the people having GERD issue have abnormal nerve or muscle function. When the muscles don’t contract normally, the stomach cannot empty all the foods into the small intestine as fast as it normally would. Such a situation increases the risk of leaking acid backward into the esophagus which can cause heartburn.
Other lifestyle risks involved in heartburn include eating large meals, smoking, stress, and eating shortly before going to bed. You will have a feeling that some foods and drinks are more likely to give you heartburn, for example, fatty foods, spicy foods, coffee, tomatoes, fried foods, and citrus fruits etc. Skip the acid foods such as citrus onions, chocolate, peppermint, and tomatoes as these are already acidic and will cause even more pain and discomfort.
Prevention and relief of heartburn
If you are dealing with mild to moderate heartburn, a little tweak in your lifestyle will help you keep it in check. Here are a few suggestions for you to keep in mind.
Eat slowly, and don’t lie down within two hours after eating, stop smoking, wear loose-fitting clothes, avoid food and drinks that trigger your heartburn, raise the head of your bed several inches (6-8) inches for sleep as it is harder for stomach acid to flow upward when your torso is slightly elevated, don’t go to bed with a full stomach, don’t eat 2-3 hours before going to bed, eat frequent smaller meals instead of three larger ones and don’t overeat, lose weight if you are overweight and try to keep your weight under control, get enough rest, reduce your stress as much as possible, try relaxation therapies or exercise 3-4 times a week but try not to exercise immediately after eating.
Treatment for heartburn
Treating heartburn is important as overtime, the acid reflux can seriously damage your esophagus. There are many treatments available for relieving the symptoms.
Medications neutralizing stomach acids: You already know them as antacids. These medications quickly reduce the amount of stomach acid and give you relief of the condition. However, it doesn’t heal the existing damage to your esophagus or prevents any future heartburn. There are a number or antacids available on the market including popular ones like Eno, Mylanta, Quick Eze, and many more.
Medications reducing acid production: These medications are known as H2-receptor blockers, for example, cimetidine (Tagamet), ranitidine (Zantac) etc. These drugs are generally slower than antacids but are effective for providing longer-term symptom relief.
Medications blocking stomach acid production to heal the esophagus: These medications are also popular as proton-pump inhibitors, for example, lansoprazole (Prevacid), omeprazole (Prilosec) etc. These drugs block the acid production in the stomach, buying time for the esophagus to heal.
Surgery: Surgery aiming to strengthen the esophageal sphincter is the final option to consider when all other medications fail to help.
You may have heard lots of myths about heartburn but the best thing you can find is a relief. If you are having a problem with your heartburn, then you should also try to keep a diary so that you can keep track of what is causing your heartburn. Don’t delay to see your doctor for treatment and advice if your symptoms are frequent and are keeping you from enjoying your life. Keep what is good for heartburn on hand to help you. If you are suffering from heartburn, watch what you eat, try over-the-counter medications, and reduce your stress to have relief comfort and most of all, peace of mind. Hope this helps!
Delores Powell: My passion is all about Health and Wellness, and to help others succeed as well. Believe in yourself and you will achieve.